Friday, 12 November 2010

Index Cards Strike Again

I've been writing shedloads of the new novel. It's all coming along very well, but I'm starting to wonder about the structure.

At the moment I have a linear pattern. Essentially my main character starts in an okay state, things go very well, then very badly. That's the first section. The second section is all about her recovery process. The third and final section is when it all comes together and stuff gets resolved, and hopefully she ends up in a better place then where she started (I haven't written the ending yet).

Section 1 is emotional, Section 2 has more laughs. I'm not sure that the two are going to sit very well together, that an innocent unsuspecting reader won't feel there's a sudden gear change. What I'm toying with is having Section 1 run alongside Section 2, swapping from past to present.

Hooray for index cards! I've written out two sets of index cards out with one scene per card and laid them out on the bed (you could use a floor or a large table, I like to work in bed). On the left side of the bedspread is the linear form - Section 1 followed by Section 2. On the right hand side of the bedspread is the past/present form - Section 1 alternating with Section 2.

I can see immediately that each version has pros and cons. For example, the alternating form on the right would mean I could ditch some rather boring linking scenes from Section 1. In fact, I could ditch a mini-subplot that I'm not convinced works. This would be good. On the other hand, there's a BIG moment at the end of Section 1 and a BIG moment at the end of Section 2. Now they're plonked bang smack next to each other. This is bad.

Going back to the left hand side of the bedspread, I can see that the BIG moments are spread out. This is good. However, there is still that major disconnect between the sections that led me to try the alternative form in the first place. This is bad.

It will take a lot of staring at the cards before I make a decision, but think about how much easier it is for me because I can see the novel in both forms easily in front of me. There's no doubt about it; index cards are a very useful addition to any writer's toolbox.


Anonymous said...

Some novels begin with a big moment then go back in time to explain events running up to it.You could maybe separate your two big moments in this way? Just a suggestion...

Julia Crouch said...

Ha! I have just written an almost identical post about index cards on my yet to go live blog. They're a bit old-school, but there's nothing like them for making your ideas seem both concrete and fluid.

womagwriter said...

I think I might have to do the same exercise at some point. I'm writing my novel linearly, but might not tell it in that order - to be decided when I've written all the scenes with the help of index cards or post-it notes.

Sarah Duncan said...

I still haven't come to any decision re my novel and the big moments. I'm certainly going to need something at the start if I go for the non-linear route.

You're right, Julia, they make ideas seem both fluid and concrete - tho I'm not so sure about the old school aspects.

I love index cards - I should have shares in an index card making company I use them so much. I strongly recommend them to anyone, especially once the first draft has been written. Post it notes are good if you have a clear wall - for some reason I like looking down on the cards rather than horizontally hence low tech cards.